Why do you love Winchester?

If you had just five minutes to enthuse about your wonderful city to a stranger, what would you say?

Winchester City Council is introducing an American-style ‘greeters’ scheme to give a personal welcome to Winchester’s visitors. Visit Winchester volunteer greeters will act as ambassadors, sharing their passion for the city and introducing visitors to ‘their Winchester’.

Alison Woods, Project Manager at Winchester City Council, said: “We would like to encourage volunteers from all walks of life and a wide range of ages. If you are passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about your city and enjoy meeting people, we’d like to hear from you. As well as making a real difference to the experiences of our visitors, volunteering to be a Visit Winchester Greeter could have a positive impact on your life too”.

The City Council already has a band of local volunteers who help to run its museums. Sheila Steele, who has been volunteering for Winchester Museums since the programme first started in 2008, said: “It has enriched my life, and is something I always look forward to. I’ve enjoyed meeting people from across the UK and all over the world. It’s so rewarding to see how impressed they are with our city. Volunteering in the Museum has been a wonderful opportunity offered by the City Council. It allows us to express our love for Winchester to everyone who visits.”

Cllr Dominic Hiscock, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Prosperity, added: “This new volunteer scheme is part of a whole range of things the City Council is introducing as it gets ready to ‘welcome the world’ in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. We want Winchester to be a truly unparalleled place to visit before, during and after the games.”

The ‘Visit Winchester’ volunteer greeter scheme will follow Global Greeter Network standards. The first scheme was founded in 1992 in New York City. The idea grew from friendly exchanges between the founder Lynn Brooks and people she had met on her own travels around the world.

Successful volunteer greeter schemes are now operating in the UK in Brighton and Kent. So, if you can commit to some simple training during the winter of 2010 and to at least two greets per month, do get in touch. For an application pack or an informal chat about being a volunteer greeter, contact Alison Woods at Winchester City Council on 01962 848 347 or email awoods@winchester.gov.uk .